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Koan: Right and Wrong

Right & Wrong

When Bankei held his seclusion-weeks of meditation, pupils from many parts of Japan came to attend. During one of these gatherings a pupil was caught stealing. The matter was reported to Bankei with the request that the culprit be expelled. Bankei ignored the case.

Later the pupil was caught in a similar act, and again Bankei disregarded the matter. This angered the other pupils, who drew up a petition asking for the dismissal of the thief, stating that otherwise they would leave in a body.

When Bankei had read the petition he called everyone before him. “You are wise brothers,” he told them. “You know what is right and what is not right. You may go somewhere else to study if you wish, but this poor brother does not even know right from wrong. Who will teach him if I do not? I am going to keep him here even if all the rest of you leave.”

A torrent of tears cleansed the face of the brother who had stolen. All desire to steal had vanished.

4 comments to Koan: Right and Wrong

  • Jami

    I hear patience in this story-a patience few have-and a patience that seeks to teach by what is loving-kindness. Such a patience, like rain clouds hanging over iced-top mountains, simmers and dissolves the coldest heart.

  • TWC

    I see a lesson for the other pupils in this story – a gentle reminder of their attachment to “right” and “wrong”. Stealing is neither right nor wrong, it is an act. It is only right or wrong because of our interpretation of the act according to a certain mindset we have, which indicates an underlying attachment.
    The pupil who stole may have become tearful at the compassion shown to him by Bankei.
    But a more profound lesson was taught to the other pupils.

  • mvr prasad

    The koan illustrates the most unselfish concern for the lowliest on the ladder.

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